My old man was more of a Mencken man than I am. Mencken to me was a little too enamored of his own prose style, which led him into taking some positions on race and religion that, in retrospect, were somewhat ugly. But he wrote beautifully, and saw American society with an incisive clarity that cut through much of the cant of his day (much like a Mark Steyn cuts through the cant of ours). He was a thoroughgoing skeptic, and skepticism is always useful, particularly in a world like ours increasingly made up, as our President exemplifies, of "just words."
One thing that Steyn would have admired is that Mencken, born in 1880, graduated high school at 16, worked in his immigrant father's cigar factory until he was 19, when he got a job as a cub reporter, beginning his career in journalism. In other words, no college, no graduate school in journalism, no credentials, no elite university stamp-of-approval... just a man who made his way up from the bottom. Can you even become an intellectual leader in America anymore without elite degrees? Maybe not (Steyn himself is close to being one for conservatives, and he doesn't have a college degree either, but try doing that without a British accent!).
Here are some selected Mencken quotes, which make for good reading, as his greatest talent was probably as an aphorist: